The Future Delivery of Public Services

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A collection of papers examining issues related to the delivery of public services, specifically:

Lessons from past attempts at change

The last thirty years of UK history have seen numerous attempts at public service reform, including the privatisation of state-owned monopolies, the rising importance of managerialism and professionalism, and increasing levels of competition and choice.  This essay asks: Looking at examples from the UK and around the world, what do we know about failures and successes to implement change in the past? What have been the barriers to previous reforms gaining traction? What political or social conditions have been conducive or obstructive to bringing about change in public services? Who have been the key change advocates? What might be the role of public service professionals in advocating for and implementing change? Are whole-system changes the most effective for public services, or can change be incremental whilst still being radical? 

Researcher: Prof Christopher Hood, ESRC Public Services Programme (tbc)

2. The future of competition and accountability in health and education

There is a growing diversity of providers of public services and an increasing emphasis on the role of competition in achieving high quality outcomes from services. The specific details of this paper are to be confirmed through consultation with the researcher but will likely address questions such as: given the evolution of competition in the health and education sectors, what role might competition play in the future in incentivising providers to deliver the most effective public services? What other arrangements could act as incentives?

Researchers: Prof Carol Propper and Simon Burgess, CMPO

3. The future of joined-up public services

The impetus behind joined-up public services is the recognition that problems are joined-up for individuals, while traditional public services tend to operate as discrete entities. This essay asks: What are the lessons from current attempts at service integration (benefits, problems and barriers)? How else might the government ensure the joining-up of services in ways that are helpful to citizens (e.g. through one-stop-shops, individual budgets, etc.)? How could services be integrated in the future?

Researcher: Prof Patrick Dunleavy, LSE

4. Fostering supply side markets for public services

Historically, supply-side markets for public services have been allowed to evolve with very little interference from the government. This has meant that market structures are not necessarily as efficient as they could be.  One attempt at proactive market-making by government was in childcare, where local authorities were tasked with ensuring a stable market in their area. This essay asks: How successful have government attempts at market-making been? What role should the government play in encouraging particular designs and structures of markets for public services?

Researcher: Prof Paul Grout, CMPO

5. Targets and accountability mechanisms

Targets came to be used extensively throughout government in the drive to ensure greater accountability of local to central government and the providers of public services to the government and their users. However, their impact has been mixed, sometimes driving improvements in outcomes but often creating new problems in the process. This essay asks: what problems are associated with using targets? Beyond targets, what other mechanisms can be used to ensure accountability? In what circumstances are different mechanisms of accountability, whether managerial, democratic, market or otherwise, most appropriate?

Suggested researcher: Dr Deborah Wilson, Public Services Programme & CMPO

6. Fostering citizen control over their lives

Since the 1980s, successive British governments have committed to increasing user choice through the creation of quasi-markets in public services, alongside efforts to improve the responsiveness of services by increasing user voice through measurement of satisfaction and experience.  However, the ultimate goal of government is to allow citizens control over their own lives, rather than simply giving them increased control of public services.  This essay asks: What arrangements for public services would truly allow citizens the most control over their own lives? What contribution might choice, voice, budgetary control and other mechanisms have in assisting with this goal? In this paradigm, how can we incentivise citizens to use public services at the right level (avoiding over and under consumption), and still retain the most individual and public benefit from the use of those services?

Researcher: Dr Deborah Wilson, Public Services Programme & CMPO

Supported by ESRC Ventures Fund
ESRC Venture Fund

To be published in 2010

For more information please contact project director: Lauren Cumming